Darkness. All I could see was darkness. I felt so alone. Fear engulfed my entire body. I tried screaming out for help, but no sound came out. I tried to move, but I felt chained down. I had no sense of direction. I reached out in front of me, hoping that there would be someone or something there. But there was nothing. I was alone. I felt weak. My knees buckled out from under me and I crashed to the cold ground. My body shook as I cried out in agony. The walls of darkness began to close in on me and I struggled to breathe as the air became thicker and thicker. I was trapped with no way out. Soon I began to feel nothing. The pain, the self-hate, the disgust, the fear – all gone. There was no emotion left. I was just there, alone in the darkness. This was it, I thought. The addiction had finally defeated me. I was torn, broken, and alone.
Addiction began to poison my life at a young age. I was first exposed to pornography when I was 12. It only took a moment of curiosity to dive into a life-long struggle. After that first exposure, my mind could not stop thinking about what I had seen. I felt so disgusted with myself, but on the other hand I was thirsting for more. It didn’t take long before I sought porn out again. And then again. And again. Before I could stop it, I was trapped by the chains of addiction. My pornography use began to be daily. Often many times a day. I couldn’t go without it. If I went too long without looking at porn, I could feel myself going crazy. I would get very irritated and angry. I couldn’t focus on anything; my brain would feel so scattered. Everything about my life seemed like it was crashing down until I was able to get my fix and look at porn again. I was falling deeper and deeper into the pit of darkness.
By the time I was in high school, I was buried neck deep by the addiction. I felt so weak. I didn’t know how much more I could take. My thoughts started to turn, and I began to feel completely worthless. I hated myself and who I was becoming. I hated that I was an addict and I felt there was no hope of escaping it. Maybe I would be better off not being alive. Nobody would miss me. If anyone knew what I did and looked at daily, they would judge me and not want to be around me. The addiction was starting to do exactly what Satan wanted it to do. It was eating away my self-confidence, pulling me away from God and the testimony that I had built over my life. Satan wanted me to feel worthless. He wanted me to feel ashamed and sad. He thrives on those emotions. He uses our self-pity and our feelings of unworthiness to tear us apart and break us down until we are under his power. I was so close to letting go and giving myself up, but God showed me that He was still around and listening to my pleas by giving me something that I desperately needed. A way out.
My mom discovered my pornography use when I was 17. Initially, I was terrified. My whole world felt like it was spinning and crashing all around me. My mind started to search frantically for an escape. There had to be a way out of this! I was so ashamed and desperately wanted to keep my addiction a secret. But, at the same time, I felt a sense of relief rush through my body. This deep, dark secret that I had kept locked up inside me finally had a little bit of light shed on it. And I felt something that I had been longing for for years. I felt HOPE. I didn’t have to fight my way through this dreadful darkness alone anymore. I had been tainted long enough by this horrible monster. God opened His arms to me and showed me that through Him, I can overcome the strenuous trials and challenges that I face. Finally, there was a hint of light in my life again.
As I began to attend 12 Step Recovery meetings, counseling, and relying on the strength that I was given from God, I began to see a miraculous change in my life. Porn had taken so much from me. It had imprisoned me in my own body. I was a completely different person when my addiction controlled my life. I began to feel more and more like myself every day. The Lord was really looking out for me and guiding me in all my choices. I felt so free! I hadn’t even realized the pain and heartache that I had felt frequently when under the influence of my addiction. When you are chained down by addiction, you begin to normalize the way that you are feeling. You tell yourself that you are okay and what you are doing isn’t that bad. You find reasons to make yourself believe that you aren’t lost and broken. You get to the point where you stop feeling anything. You become numb; you lose yourself. But as you begin recovery and discover that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ you can be given hope and strength, you find yourself again and are able to let go of all the pain and anguish.
Recovery from addiction, however, is a continual process that you must constantly be working on or you can quickly be swept back into Satan’s trap. I had been sober for about two years when I lost sight of what I was working for. I became very lax and prideful, and stopped doing the things that I knew I needed to do to stay clean. I hadn’t looked at porn in so long, so I thought that I was strong enough to be able to handle the temptations on my own. This mindset was the ax that was about to chop my life into pieces.
It was about a year into my marriage when porn emerged back into my life. It only took a few seconds of misjudgment and vulnerability to jump right back into the endless pit of addiction. That first ‘slip-up’ transformed itself into a full-fledged avalanche of poor decisions and mistakes. Within a few days, my whole life was flipped upside down. Pornography was back, and it was ready to tear apart and torture me until I was broken on the floor. That is what I felt like as the addiction chained me down once again. I felt absolutely broken. I was more lost and confused than ever before. The light that had been healing my wounds was now drenched in the cold darkness that was starting to consume my very soul. It pressed upon my mind so heavily that I couldn’t even move or speak. I tried so hard to stop. Brittani deserved better than this. I deserved better than this! But it was too late for me. The addiction had taken over. My thoughts, my feelings, my emotions, my actions; everything about my life was completely controlled by my addiction. As the hope that I had been clinging to faded away, I shut myself off from feeling any sort of feelings or emotion. I went day by day, feeling absolutely nothing. There was no more pain, no more shame, no more happiness or hope. I felt completely empty. Even my love for my beautiful wife deteriorated. The addiction was literally taking over every aspect of my life. Satan wanted me to believe that the only thing that I had left to live for was my addiction. And I believed it.
Two years into our marriage, I was at an all time low. I was very depressed and unhappy. The addiction was everything to me at that point. Brittani knew something was wrong, and soon found out that I was looking at porn again. This broke her. She was devastated and resorted to blaming herself. It put her in a very bad place. We were miserable. The addiction had such a hold on me that even though Brittani was doing everything in her power to help and support me, I just didn’t care to get better. The addiction was there for me when I needed it the most. It always had been. So why should I get rid of it? The love that had grown inside me for the wonderful person that Brittani was started to sink and fall away. This wasn’t because of anything that she was doing wrong; in fact, Brittani was amazing through everything. She worked so hard to make me happy, to try and get me to see what I was doing was ruining my life, and just giving everything that she physically and mentally could to helping me. But my pride got in the way. Satan had successfully worked his way into my soul and was now controlling every thought that I had and every action that I made. I was broken. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t think that I ever would be. As each day passed, my life began to grow darker and darker. There was no light in sight. This way of life went on for over a year.
There I was, torn to shreds and holding for dear life by a single thread. Was it even worth holding on anymore? The darkness beneath seemed more appealing to me than the pain and anguish I was feeling as I hung over the edge. Satan continually tugged at my body, beckoning for me to let go. It was just too much to take. As I was about to let go and tumble into Satan’s grasp, a hand reached down and began to pull me upwards. I looked up to see who was reaching for me, but all I could see was a bright ray of light shining down at me. I shielded my eyes, hoping to be able to see more clearly. And there He was. God was reaching for me and commanding me to hold on. And then I felt something deep within my heart that I hadn’t felt in quite some time. I felt warmth. I felt emotion. I felt love. And I felt HOPE.
I had gone so long feeling nothing, letting my addiction manage everything in my life. But one day, I realized that I could not live this way anymore. I realized that I was destroying everything around me – my marriage, my relationships, my love for God, my ENTIRE life. Satan was leading me down a very dangerous and destructive path. I knew from that moment that I needed to change. My addiction was tearing me away from everything that I loved and believed in. And I needed to bring a stop to it.
I was nearly 23 years old when I began to take steps toward breaking free from my pornography addiction. In the Addiction Recovery Program as published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the first step toward recovery is Honesty. For many years, I hid from my addiction by not admitting that I had a problem. I did everything that I could to minimize my behavior. By doing this, I slipped deeper into my addiction. As I began to realize what pornography was doing to my life, I knew that I needed to take this first step. To admit that my life had become unmanageable and that I needed help to overcome my addiction. I let go of my pride and became willing to seek out help. I started to attend Addiction Recovery meetings. At first, I was very skeptical and scared that this wasn’t going to work. I had already tried this before, and it only helped for a short amount of time. So why would it now? But as I continued to go to the meetings, my thoughts and feelings about it began to change. I started seeing the changes that this was bringing into my life. For so long, I had left God out of my life. I had tried to do everything on my own. But these meetings helped me realize that I couldn’t overcome this trial by myself. I needed more help and support. I needed the strength that can only come from our loving Heavenly Father.
Over time, the dark fog that had clouded my vision for several years began to slip away. I could finally see light. The warmth that overwhelmed my whole soul was incredible. I was finally able to feel HOPE. I had been reaching out for so long, endlessly without feeling anything. And now, I could finally see in front of me. There was no more darkness. I could finally see the colors around me and feel the warmth of the light on my skin. And I discovered that there was only one way that I could stay out of the darkness. Hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ. God loves us more than we can even comprehend. He knows each one of us so personally. We are given trials in this life because God loves us. Trials and challenges are what make us stronger, they are what forge us into who we are. God has given us so many blessings if we will just open our eyes and look around us.
Now, I know that many of you who are reading this may be struggling with your own addictions and/or trials. I want all of you to know that there is a way out of that awful darkness! There is hope for each one of you. God loves you and He will always be there for you. He has his arms open wide, ready to hold you and protect you from Satan’s grasp. Jesus Christ is the light that you must hold onto! He has suffered for each one of us. We cannot even begin to comprehend the love that Our Savior has for us. Find HOPE in Jesus Christ! No matter how lost and broken you feel, please know that there is always a way back to the light! Look to God and trust in Him. Rely on Him! He will guide you to safety and bring a hope into your life that will save you from that deep and horrible darkness! I know that we are NEVER alone. God knows the struggles you are going through. And He will never leave you! As you tread through the darkness, look to the light of Christ and know that there is hope!